1962 (A Remembrance) – by Michael Caulfield
Editor’s Note: The following piece was written by Michael Caulfield as a remembrance of his early days being a Yankees fan. We ran this a few years ago and are sharing this great memory once again.
by Michael Caulfield
The roads from Queens to The Bronx were an adventure in themselves. The World’s Fair was coming back to Queens. Road construction was everywhere. Cloverleafs, loops, flyovers you name it we had it. We crossed the Triboro Bridge high over Hell’s Gate and entered The Bronx.
The year was 1962. JFK was in the White House. Think Camelot. The Yankees were a living dynasty. Every ten year old knew the line up before Spring Training ended. There was no talk of trades and contracts. Baseball was a game. Players belonged to their City and their fans.
Once in The Bronx, local streets took you to the neighborhood – the neighborhood where The Stadium sat – right across from the giant Courthouse. Street parking was the only option for us. Getting there early was crucial.
Walking into The Stadium for the first time was a moment never to be forgotten – an assault of sights, sounds and smells. You find your section, but an usher blocks the way. Tickets please. He walks you to your row and with a flourish he cleans your seats with a well worn cloth and then turns discreetly with his hand out for two bits.
You settle into your seat. The grass is greener than anywhere else on earth. Of course, there is no grass in Queens. The hot dogs taste like no others. The head on my father’s beer is higher than on any beer ever poured.
Finally they take the field – Mantle with his distinctive hobble, Maris with his powder keg arms, Whitey on the mound, Ellie Howard, Bill Skowron, Tony Kubek, Bobby Richardson, Clete Boyer – all announced by the voice of God over the PA system – all recognizable from well worn baseball cards, but no still pictures were these guys; no tiny images on a black and white TV screen. There was Clete himself gobbling up balls burning down the third base line. There was Hector Lopez going back to the warning track in left to end the inning.
But the ultimate moments are when Maris hits two homers – both into the short right field porch. The underdog who hit 61 in ’61 under relentless pressure to take the home run title from the Mick and to challenge The Babe. The ghost of The Babe still haunted The Stadium. The ghost even stuck an asterisk on Maris’ 61.
The rest is a blur. The tickets I learned years later were a gift from a season ticket holder. A bank teller from Queens would not have had season tickets, but he might have had a boss who knew the teller had a ten year old who lived for baseball, especially for a certain dynasty in The Bronx. So a lifetime memory was created by a small act of generosity.
And by the way the pinstripe dynasty may slumber from time to time, but it never dies.